A call to any historians out there!!! I’m trying to figure out what Baldur von Schirach did to receive the Iron Cross Second Class, the Infantry Assault Badge, and the War Merit Cross 1st class without swords (civilian award likely while he was Gauleiter). I’m aware of the criteria for the decorations, but I’m hoping to find what specifically he did to receive them. I know he rose from the rank of Private to Lieutenant with the Großdeutschland division, and that he was a part of machine gun detachment, and that they suffered heavy casualties in France leading to Dunkirk. 

Captain Salomon Klass, Finnish Jewish company commander in the Winter War, Continuation War, and Second World War. Awarded the Iron Cross Second Class by the Germans for gallantry, Klass declined it. 

Klass tells a story of being invited to a meeting of high-ranking Finnish and German officers by his CO, General Hjalmar Siilasvuo. Siilasvuo introduced him as “one of my best company commanders”. Klass writes: “General Siilasvuo knew full well who I was and what segment of the population I belonged to”. The Germans remained silent.

Another anecdote is told of Klass. After heavy fighting in the Uhtua region, a German colonel known as Pilgrim came to congratulate the captain on a job well done. Hearing Klass’s accented German, the colonel asked if he was from Baltia. Klass replied that he was Jewish, his mother tongue was Yiddish, and it was possible that the Yiddish accent could be heard through the German. A long silence followed, after which Pilgrim stood up, shook his hand, and said “I have nothing against you personally as a Jew. Thank you, Captain.” 

While this photo is undated, it was presumably taken during the early war, as Klass would go on to lose an eye fighting the Soviets during the Winter War. 

Kurt Knispel (1921 – 1945) was a Sudeten German Heer Panzer loader, gunner and later commander, and was the highest scoring tank ace of World War II with a total of 168 confirmed tank kills,the actual number, although unconfirmed is as high as 195.He is counted with Johannes Bolter, Ernst Barkmann, Otto Carius and Michael Wittmann as being one of, if not, the greatest tank aces of all time.

Knispel was born in Salisfeld of Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.After completing his apprenticeship in a automobile factory in 1940, Knispel applied to join the armoured branch of the German Army.
For his basic training, Knispel went to the Panzer Replacement Training Battalion at Sagan in Lower Silesia. There he received basic infantry training before tank training on the Panzer I, Panzer II, and Panzer IV. On October 1940, he was transferred to the 3rd Company of the 29th Panzer Regiment, 12th Panzer Division where he finished his training as a loader and gunner on a Panzer IV.Training lasted until June 1941 and consisted of courses at Sagan and Putlos.
Knispel first saw action in August 1941 in a Panzer IV tank,during Operation Barbarossa. By January 1943 had returned to Putlos to undergo his training in the new Tiger I tank.Next he was transferred to the 1st Company of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion (Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503) where he took part in the Battle of Kursk and saw further action in other battles.
From there he went on to commanding of a Tiger II (King Tiger), when his unit was re-equipped, and fought around Caen and in the retreat from Normandy. From there the unit was transferred back to the Eastern Front and continue to fought in many battles.His final battle was in Wostitz where he was fatally wounded on April 1945, ten days before the end of war.

He was awarded the Iron Cross, First and Second Class, after destroying his fiftieth enemy tank and the Tank Assault Badge in Gold after more than 100 tank battles. When Knispel had destroyed 126 enemy tanks, he was awarded the German Cross in Gold,(May 1944). He became the only non-commissioned officer (Unteroffizier) of the German army to be named in a Wehrmacht communique,(April 1944).
Although he was recommended four times, he was never awarded the Knight’s Cross (a standard award for most other World War II German tank aces).
Unlike some other commanders,Knispel was never pursuit decorations. When there were conflicting claims for a destroyed enemy tank,always stepped back,willing to credit success to someone else.
Knispel was an excellent gunner (he is credited with knocking out a T-34 at 3,000 metres) and as a tank commander was also in his own element.At times he faced superior enemies he gave the units he was supporting the best chance to advance or the safest passage of retreat. Alfred Rubbel, one of Knispel’s first commanders, stated that when he was on the field of battle he never abandoned anyone,even in the worst of situations and conditions.

Finnish Jewish Major Leo Skurnik (1907-1976). Scientist, doctor, and aspiring concert pianist, Leo Skurnik joined the Finnish Army as a medical officer when war broke out. Serving with Jakavälki Rykmentti 53 (53 Infantry Regiment), Skurnik was responsible for the unit’s medical care and welfare. While posted to Kiestinki’s Pocket in 1941, Skurnik took over part of the treatment duties for 6. SS-Nord.

By August of that year, the Soviets had almost completely surrounded both units. Under heavy Russian shelling, Skurnik decided the units’ combined field hospital had to be evacuated. At great risk to his own life, Skurnik led 600 wounded Finns and Germans through 5.5 miles of bogland under enemy fire, eventually bringing them all back safely to their own lines. For this, he was recommended for an Iron Cross Second Class (EKII). Said Colonel Wolf Halsti: "Major Skurnik did not only take care of the wounded, he also went himself to the frontline and brought them back under enemy’s fire. Whether it was a Finn or German, he brought them safe.“ 

When General Hjalmar Siilasvuo informed Skurnik that he had been recommended for the EKII, he laughed it off, saying he’d wait to see how long it took Berlin to refuse the award once they found out he was Jewish. To Skurnik’s great surprise, the medal was approved. When Skurnik learned this, he told General Siilasvuo: “My good friend, do you think I can take that kind of decoration? Tell your German colleagues that I wipe my arse with it!” The infuriated Germans demanded the general hand Skurnik over for punishment. Siilasvuo refused.

Leutnant Walter Blume (10 January 1896 – 27 May 1964) was a German fighter ace of World War I. During World War I, he flew with Jastas 26 and 9, gaining 28 aerial victories and earning the Iron Cross and the Pour le Merite.

Post World War I he became a prominent aircraft designer for both Albatros and Arado, being one of the pioneers of jet propulsion design in airplanes.

Walter Blume was born in Hirschberg, Silesia, and originally served in the 5th Silesian Jaeger Battalion in September 1914. After being wounded early in the conflict, he trained as a pilot beginning 30 June 1915. He began his flying career in two-seater Aviatik aircraft with Feldflieger abteilung (Field Flier Detachment) 65 from 18 June 1916 through 20 January 1917. He received an Iron Cross Second Class during this time, on 24 July 1916. He then successfully asked for a transfer to flying single-seat fighters for Jasta 26 in January 1917. In August 1916, he was promoted to Vizefeldwebel. On 31 January 1917, he was commissioned a leutnant. This was also the month he would shift to Jasta 26.

He scored his first victory for Jasta 26 on 10 May 1917. On 14 August, he received the Iron Cross First Class. He became an ace on 24 October 1917, and on 29 November 1917 received a serious chest wound in combat with No. 48 Squadron RFC’s Bristol F.2 Fighters. He was hospitalised for over 3 months.

After a spell with Fliegerersatz-Abteilung (Replacement Detachment) 3, on 5 March 1918 Blume returned to active duty, commanding Jasta 9. He scored a further 22 victories, all with his new unit. With the exception of double scores on 31 August 1918 and 14 September 1918, he accumulated his successes singly, mostly fighters. Only four of his victories were over two-seater aircraft. He flew in both Albatros fighters and the Fokker D.VII.

Blume was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern on 7 August 1918. This was followed by his receipt of the German Empire’s most prestigious medal, the Pour le Merite on 2 October 1918, the same day as his 27th and penultimate victory.

He resigned from military service on 15 January 1919.

After World War I, he remained in aviation. He trained as an aeronautical engineer at the Technical University at Hanover, and subsequently joined the German Arado Flugzeugwerke in the mid-1920s, where he was involved in the design of the Ar 95, Arado Ar 96, and Ar 196. In early 1933 he was appointed Chief Design Engineer of Arado Flugzeugwerke and over the next ten years was responsible for the design of some of the world’s first jets, such as the Ar 234 twin-jet reconnaissance aircraft, which he saw through its development in several different prototypes and finally to the twin-jet bomber, the Ar 234 Blitz. Towards the end of World War II he led the Arado design team in upgrading the Ar 234 to a Four-Jet Bomber variant, but one which only reached “Proof of Concept” form. He attempted to revive one of his designs, the Blume Bl.502, for Arado as a light civil aircraft, but met with no commercial success.After the German surrender he was captured by the Soviet Army and taken to the Soviet Union, where for several years he helped develop their fledgling jet aircraft program.


history meme - (1/8) women

Hanna Reitsch (1912–1979) was a German aviatrix and one of the most well-known Nazi test pilots. She was the only woman awarded the Luftwaffe Pilot/Observer Badge (1941) and the Iron Cross, First Class (1943) during World War II. Fascinated with flying from an early age, Reitsch reportedly attempted to jump off the balcony of her home at the age of 4 in eagerness to experience flight. At her death she had set over 40 aviation altitude and endurance records both before and after World War II and any of her records have yet to be beaten.

In 1937, Reitsch was made a Luftwaffe civilian test pilot, a post she would hold until the end of World War II, and tested several bombers for which she received the Iron Cross, Second Class, from Adolf Hitler in 1941. Reitsch was the first female helicopter pilot and her flying skill, desire for publicity and photogenic qualities made her a star of Nazi Party propaganda in which she appeared throughout the late 1930s. In 1942, she crash landed on her fifth Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet flight and was badly injured and Reitsch received the Iron Cross, First Class, a few days after the accident. On 28 February 1944, she presented her idea of Operation Suicide to Hitler who, however, “did not consider the war situation sufficiently serious” to warrent it. In October 1944, Reitsch was shown a booklet concerning the gas chambers. While she claimed she believed it to be enemy propaganda, she agreed to inform Heinrich Himmler about it. Himmler asked her if she believed it and she replied, “No, of course not. But you must do something to counter it. You can’t let them shoulder this onto Germany.” During the last days of the war, Hitler dismissed Hermann Göring as head of the Luftwaffe and instead appointed Reitsch’s lover, Generaloberst Robert Ritter von Greim, after they had flown into embattled Berlin to meet him in the Führerbunker. Red Army troops were already in Berlin when Reitsch and von Greim arrived on 26 April in a Fieseler Fi 156 Storch but with her long experience at low-altitude flying over Berlin and having already surveyed the road as an escape route, Reitsch landed on an improvised airstrip in the Tiergarten near the Brandenburg Gate. They left again on 28 April under heavy shooting from Soviet troops who feared that Hitler was escaping in the plane but the it took off successfully. Before leaving, Hitler gave Reitsch and Von Greim a cyanide phial each before dismissing them from the bunker.

Reitsch was captured soon after the fall of the Third Reich and was held and interrogated for eighteen months. Her companion, von Greim, committed suicide on 24 May. After her release, Reitsch settled in Frankfurt am Main. Following the war, German citizens were barred from flying powered aircraft, but within a few years gliding was allowed, which she took up and in 1952, she won a bronze medal in the World Gliding Championships in Spain as the first woman to compete. From 1962 to 1966, she lived in Ghana, where she founded the first black African national gliding school and worked for Kwame Nkrumah. In 1970, she gained the Diamond Badge. While in Ghana, Reitsch’s attitudes to race changed: “Earlier in my life, it would never have occurred to me to treat a black person as a friend or partner…” She now experienced guilt at her earlier “presumptuousness and arrogance”. In her final interview in the 1970s, she, however, remarked that “many Germans feel guilty about the war. But they don’t explain the real guilt we share — that we lost.” Reitsch died in Frankfurt at the age of 67, on 24 August 1979, reportedly after a heart attack. It is, however, known that she somehow had managed to retain her cyanide capsule and some believe that Reitsch, who had made a suicide pact with her lover von Greim, may have been fulfilling her end of the pact by taking the capsule. Unfortunately, no post mortem was ever made on her body to confirm this (+more).


1945  March 20

The stories of the young HJ soldiers congratulated by the fuhrer in the closing days of world war II  

Führer und Reichskanzler (“Leader and Reich Chancellor”) Adolf Hitler touches the face of Wilhelm “Willi” Hubner a Hitlerjugend  during an awards ceremony behind the Reich Chancellery on March 20, 1945.

This view was taken from “Die Deutsche Wochenschau” Nummer 755 (“The German Weekly Review” Number 755), which was the last newsreel circulated to non-occupied Germany in March 1945.

To Hubner’s left is Alfred Czech. To his right, two persons down, is Erwin Scheidewig.

Reichjugendfuhrer “Reich Youth Leader”) Artur Axmann had just presented twenty Hitler Youth with the Eisernes Kreuz (“Iron Cross”) Second Class.

Hubner was first decorated by Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph P. Goebbels in Lauban, a German city retaken by the Nazis on March 6, 1945.

Hubner was a messenger attached to the Fuhrer-Grenadier-Division and was decorated for bravery under fire in the city square on March 9.

Hubner was flown to Berlin, given a new uniform, and after waiting a short time, was redecorated by Axmann. Hitler never actually awarded the medals.

The scene was photographed and Hubner was compelled to tell his story for the cameras. Hubner told his story, probably heavily edited, for the cameras:

“When the Russians were closing in on Lauban, I reported for voluntary duty as a messenger to the combat commander. My job was to take dispatches to the individual command posts. I also frequently took provisions and panzerfausts (literally "tank fists” a disposable anti-tank weapon) up to the front line under fire.I carried the panzerfausts in a wheel barrow under enemy fire.“

The son of a farmer in Goldenau, Silesia, Czech made two trips under fire with his father’s horse cart rescue wounded German soldiers. He first brought out eight, then four soldiers. The next day, while hiding in their home, a General ordered Czech to fly to Berlin to meet Hitler. Arriving in Berlin, Czech could hear the Soviet artillery outside the city, which was not yet in range.

Hubner and Czech and eighteen others were given a large breakfast and put on clean uniforms. They lined up outside the Chancellery’s back wall in the garden. While they waited for Hitler, Axmann told them to be at ease and to not greet the Fuhrer with the Nazi salute. Axmann pinned the Iron Crosses on the Hitler Youth.

Czech remembered his conversation with Hitler as "So you are the youngest of all? Weren’t you afraid when you rescued the soldiers?”. Czech responded “No, my Führer!”

Decades later, Czech stated “"Even at [age] twelve, I was an enthusiastic supporter of Hitler,” After the ceremony, the Hitler Youth lunched with Hitler in the Führerbunker, and told him their combat stories.

Hitler was especially pleased with Hubner’s story, as it reminded him of his own time as a messenger during World War I. The Hitler Youth were given one wish before returning to combat; Czech asked for and received an accordion. He could not return to Goldenau; the Red Army had occupied it.

He appeared with Erwin Scheideweg in a Netherlands Television documentary called “Die Hitlerjugend” in 1973. Nothing further is known about Erwin Scheideweg.

Armin Lehmann often said to be standing with Hubner and Czech, wasn’t present on March 20, 1945, but was decorated on Hitler’s birthday on April 20, 1945 in an undocumented ceremony outside the Fuhrerbunker in the Chancellery garden.


Hubner received his Iron Cross and was congratulated by Goebbels in Lauban on March 9, 1945

He joined his comrades as they received their Iron crosses from Axmann then shortly after, congratulated by the fuhrer all in Berlin on March 20, 1945 

German Aviator Lt. Josef Mai, recipient of the Iron Cross (first and second class) who during the Great War was credited with 30 aerial victories. He fought during the German offensive for Paris, and fought around Warsaw on the Eastern Front in 1915. Later fighting on the Western Front would have him involved with dogfights during both the Battle of Verdun and Battle of the Somme. During World War II, he was a flight instructor for the Luftwaffe.

He died in 1982, at the age of 94.


gep. Selb. für Sturmgeschütz 7,5 cm Stu.K. 40 (L/43) Ausf. F (Sd.Kfz. 142/1)

Schutze  in the foreground is armed with one Soviet semi-automatic rifle SVT-40. Note that  he seems to carry the iron cross of second class around the neck , yet a prohibited practice.